Sep 23, 2014

Social Service: New York Court Allows Legal Notice Via Facebook

A  man may serve legal notice on his ex-wife in a child support case via Facebook because other methods have proved fruitless, a New York family court judge has ruled. Noel B. v. Anna Maria A., Docket No. F-00787-13/14B (N.Y. Fam. Ct. Sept. 12, 2014).

While this is not the first time that a court has allowed service of legal notice via Facebook, it differs from other cases in that in this case the court approved the Facebook notice as the primary means of service, rather than a secondary method as in other cases.

In Noel. B., Staten Island resident Noel Biscocho is seeking to end child support payments to his ex-wife Anna Maria Antigua on the grounds that their son had just turned 21. Ending the payments requires the court's permission to modify the couple's child support order. Efforts to serve notice of the proceeding to Antigua at her last known address -- which she used in court documents as recently as March 2013 -- were fruitless, as were efforts to obtain a current address from the son or the couple's 22-year-old daughter.

While her whereabouts are unknown, Antigua's Facebook account remains active, with "likes" from the account as recently as July 2014.

So, after finding other methods of contacting Antigua "impracticable" and noting Biscocho's "diligent efforts" to locate Antigua, Staten Island Support Magistrate Gregory Gliedman authorized service of the legal papers to the Facebook account, followed by mailing of the documents to Antigua's last known address.

"The method detailed here ... provides the best chance of the Respondent getting actual notice of these proceedings," Gliedman wrote.

Gliedman notes that "this court is not aware of any published decision wherein a New York state courthas authorized service of process by means of social media."

But other courts have allowed such service as a secondary means of notifying parties of court proceedings, particularly when the parties are abroad. See, e.g., Federal Trade Commission v. PCCare247 Inc., Civil No. 12-7189 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 7, 2013) (allowing service of defendants in India via e-mail and Facebook), and Whoshere, Inc. v. Orun, Civil. No. 13-526 (E.D. Va. Feb. 20, 2014) (allowing service of defendant in Turkey via e-mail, Facebook and LinkedIn). But other courts have rejected such service. See, e.g., Fortunato v. Chase Bank USA, N.A., Civil No. 11-6608 (S.D.N.Y. June 7, 2012);

Several other U.S. courts have allowed service by e-mail alone; Florida and Texas have specific rules on the issue.

It seems inevitable that courts will eventually allow service via e-mail, social media and other electronic means, particularly when it can be shown that such service is likely to be effective. The courts adapt slowly to new technologies, but eventually these new methods will become an ordinary part of legal proceedings.


Eric P. Robinson said...

Another New York judge has now allowed service of notice of a divorce case via Facebook. Such service will become more common as social media becomes more ubiquious and more accepted by the courts.

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